Social Media and Social Movements

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In major world events, before the widespread availability of social media, you wouldn’t be able to see as many graphic images and alternative narrative messages that can now accompany the statistics, written accounts, interviews and articles. This can be both an advantage and disadvantage, it can make world events more real when you see evidence of violence, damages, and loss of life and make people more empathetic but it can also contribute to people avoiding seeking out news and details of those same disasters to avoid the graphic imagery and confusion that social media provides. The advantage of documentation cannot be outweighed as even the posterity of recorded history is an advantage worth the weight of everyone’s collective inconvenience in recording and viewing the most graphic of evidence or the most combative and argumentative of comments.

World events not only include things like terror attacks, wars, and demonstrations (peaceful or otherwise) but also include natural disasters and significant moments in politics. These events are expanded by the possibilities of new media and social media.

Some of the possibilities of how social media can augment world events are showcased in the grouping of political protests, uprisings, and revolutions known as “Arab Spring”. Many of the events featured social media as one of the tools that helped enable many of the social movements. In countries that had tight control over conventional media, social media became an outlet for people to spread their message and to organize protests. Without social media, the organizing of people and spreading of ideas would have been lessened and while the effectiveness of “social media revolution” has been argued to have been a mixed bag, what can be said is that social media helped enable the spread of information and ideas as well as help organize large groups of people in many of the countries that is included in the Arab Spring.

Some might point out to the lack of results from the movements in many of the countries in the Arab Spring to say that social media is not an effective tool of political movements. I’d argue that part of the value of social media in many of these countries is recognizing that access to social media inherently gives more power to the people within the country than if they did not have access to it at all. People in Arab Spring countries have said that social media helped organize movements but also muddied the purpose and message of those same movements. While it’s probably true that organizing a revolution entirely on the back of social media can contribute to a lack of direction, I would also remind that social media also muddies the message of the people and governments in power. In the end, not only is social media a helpful tool in spreading the messages of political movements but it also takes away total and absolute power and control from people and governments who would otherwise monopolize and abuse their position gained from traditional media suppression.

Sources:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/25/egypt-5-years-on-was-it-ever-a-social-media-revolution

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/colin-delany/how-social-media-accelera_b_821497.html

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2016/01/arab-spring-five-years-on/

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-30003865

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